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‘Everybody has Won, So All Must Have Prizes’:* Reflections on the South African General Election

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2014

Extract

For South Africa 1994 was an Annus Mirabilis. Despite pre-election predictions of violent disruption, the country's first democratic general election took place in an atmosphere of reconciliation and hope for a future in which past injustice would be rectified and the ‘new South Africa’ welcomed back into the international community. For a brief moment — and, of course, it might not last as the inevitable constraints imposed by scarce resources, rising expectations and external pressures complicate decision making — South Africa appeared to have taken a major step towards Nelson Mandela's goal of a ‘nation united in diversity’. Certainly, one striking feature of the four-year transition was the willingness of the elites engaged in the negotiating process to accommodate each other as they sought to reach agreement on a new constitution in a spirit of ‘consensus and compromise’. And the same spirit is meant to inspire the day-to-day working of the Government of National Unity and Reconstruction (GNU) which, in effect, is a grand coalition of all the major talents.


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Copyright © Government and Opposition Ltd 1994

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References

1 NB Nelson Mandela’s statement that ‘respect for diversity has been central to the ANC’s political credo. As South Africa gears itself for its first democratic election, this tradition will guide our electoral campaign’. Mandela, Nelson, ‘South Africa’s Future Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 5, 1993, p. 88.Google Scholar

2 The failure of the ANC to get 66 per cent of the vote is significant: in effect, the ANC component of the GNU will not be able to make changes to the constitution unilaterally as it does not possess the required two-thirds majority laid down in the interim constitution.

3 The author was, for example, presented with a ballot form on which an ‘X’ had already been marked in favour of the Inkatha Freedom Party!.

4 David Welsh, ‘Negotiating a Democratic Constitution’, in Spence, J. E. (ed.), Change in South Africa, London, The Royal Institute of International Affair, 1994, p. 31 Google Scholar. Welsh in the contribution cited above stresses that the central government has: sweeping powers of override that cast strong doubt on the federal character of the constitution … moreover, later drafts of the constitution make no reference to exclusive provincial powers but, instead, expound a list of concurrent powers that may be exercised jointly by the central and provincial governments. These include very important issues like education (at the tertiary level), health, housing, local government, language policy, police (with certain limitations) and welfare services.

5 ibid., p. 31.

6 The work of constitutional revision will be undertaken by the National Parliamentary Assembly in its role as a Constituent Assembly. The work of revision is meant to be complete within two years and the Assembly will be presided over by Cyril Ramaphosa, currently Secretary-General of the ANC and a possible contender for the leadership when Nelson Mandela retires.

7 Roger Riddell, ‘Economic Policies and South Africa’, London, Overseas Development Institute, April 1994. See also Spence, J. E., ‘South Africa’s Homegrown Democracy’, RTZ Review, No. 30, 07 1994, p. 19.Google Scholar

8 See. Spence, J. E., ‘Miles to go before they sleep’, Financial Mail, Johannesburg, 6 05 1994, p. 48.Google Scholar

9 Page, Sheila and Stevens, Christopher, Trading with South Africa: The Policy Options for the EC, London, Overseas Development Institute, 1994.Google Scholar

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